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MSC stories, focus group discussions and key informant interviews feedback

In an attempt to assess ZWLA’s effectiveness in the lives of women and the communities at large, data were collected from legal aid clients and community education participants. This information was gathered through most significant change stories and focus group discussions. Data collected reveals that ZWLA’s activities are changing women’s lives in a positive way. This was evidenced from focus group discussions and most significant change stories told by women who had received legal aid from ZWLA. Below are 2 most significant change stories collected from legal aid clients in Bulawayo. 


Most significant Change Story 1

Fadzai Madhaka aged 31, a ZWLA client whose divorce case was recently completed was pleased to share her experiences and how ZWLA helped her. This is how she narrated her story………….


“The assistance that I got from ZWLA was on matrimonial issues, I think I’m that person who had many issues, I had a maintenance case, protection order and a divorce. I grew up in conservative family; I was a church girl and a typical good girl who got into marriage expecting the best. I met my husband when we were working for the same organisation. We were in love at that time and we had a nice white wedding. When I was right into the marriage that was when I realised that good things don’t always happen to good people. My husband turned out to be an abusive partner and very irresponsible. In the whole duration of our marriage we never really stayed together. He worked in Beitbridge and I was based in Bulawayo. He made me stay with his parents and I wasn’t really happy there. I went out of my way to please people, to please him and to please my in-laws. He was irresponsible and couldn’t support the family though he had a good job. So I ended up being the one taking care of the family while he was busy having a good time with his money.

The main issue that led to the demise of our marriage was infidelity. It was a sad thing to hear that he’s seeing someone and in such situations you start asking yourself questions like is there something wrong with me that is making him go to someone else, it really destroys your ego and self-confidence and that is exactly what happened to me. What made it worse was that even the lady that he cheated with was also working for the same organisation we worked for. They were both based in Beitbridge.  Everyone at work was talking about the affair and naturally, you are the last person to know about it. They even had a child together and our children were born in the same year. It was like at the time I was busy breastfeeding he was also busy impregnating some else. It was really a bad experience. There was a lot of fighting and abuse, we were in and out of the police stations and court rooms, we had a rollercoaster marriage and within the same year of our marriage we were already filing for divorce. I was miserable but because it was a new marriage and I  was raised up in a background that said marriage is for keeps, I had to hang in that marriage. I couldn’t even contemplate divorce.

Telling my aunts about the problems wasn’t helpful in anyway as they advised me to put up saying we will get used to each other, all men are like that and I should learn to be patient and forgiving. So eventually I moved out from the in-laws place and found my own place and he wasn’t happy with that. He told me out rightly that since I have moved out it meant the end of our marriage. He even stopped calling to find out how the child was doing, that’s when I decided to go for maintenance. ZWLA assisted me and I got $250 per month which was good at the time. Although it was a good move, it also made matters worse because he thought since he was giving me his dollar he could do anything that he wanted with me, so he would come to my place, beat up and even in the streets. Everyone in the block of flats I lived knew us because of the fights we had. My flat always had broken windows and doors from the fighting. At one time we were in the newspapers regarding the violence and the beating I got from him. One incident I vividly remember was when he brutally hit me because he was angry that I had a new phone. He probably thought someone had bought that phone for me. We were at his parent’s place and he beat me in front of his siblings and other family members.  He wasn’t happy with the maintenance that he was made to pay and at one time he came and took the child from me to his parents and the boy was only 6 months old. I came back to ZWLA and got a protection order.

Although I had a protection order I would still allow him in my home and only when he got violent I would rush to the police to report him for breaching the protection order and then he would get arrested. In all the occasions I had reported him for breaching the protection order I would later feel pity for him and go back to the police to get him out of the cells. The reason I would allow him in my home and feel pity for him when he’s arrested was I  felt I didn’t want to deny my son time with his father, as someone who also came from a broken home I told myself I didn’t want my son to grow up the same way I did. Eventually he filed for divorce as a self-actor (with no lawyer to represent him) and I consented. Although there was consent the divorce took about 3 years to be concluded. This was because we didn’t agree on the sharing of property. We didn’t have much property since we had not been married for a long time but yet he wanted us to share everything in half including things like teaspoons and kitchen utensils which were largely wedding gifts from my mum, relatives and friends. He then went quiet and stopped filing papers for some time. He however went on to have another wedding the same marriage chapter as mine (chapter 5.11) which does not allow 2 wives and that was a criminal offence.  I heard the news about the wedding before it transpired and people were actually saying I should go with my marriage certificate and stop the wedding. I asked myself some questions: do I still love this guy? What do I gain from stopping his wedding? Our marriage is long over and what will I benefit from stopping the wedding? I made peace with it and allowed the wedding to take place. I came to ZWLA for assistance in the divorce processing and at that time he was serious too, so he got a lawyer to represent him.

Our divorce was finalised 5 months after his second wedding.  He pays maintenance although he’s not consistent. I lost my job and I have since moved back home where I don’t pay rentals. I’m trying to make the best for my child and at one time I wanted to go back to the maintenance court to resolve the issue of his arrears but frankly the court is not a place you want to visit frequently, court processes take long to be resolved and the people who work there are sometimes hostile. All these factors inhibit women from taking action and claiming their rights. The assistance I got from ZWLA was immense and besides being assisted legally, of note was the empowerment aspect I got. I got to know and affirm my rights. I became more assertive and even if I come across someone going through what I went through at that time, I’m in a better position to assist them and give advice based on the assistance I got from ZWLA. I can refer people for services. Throughout all this drama, trouble and pain I went through, I emerged stronger, more assertive and with increased knowledge of my rights. I read the newspapers about women who are abused and yet put up with that and are sometimes eventually murdered by men and I realise that I made the right decision to give up that marriage. From the assistance I got from ZWLA I’m better able to talk to other women in similar situations, I share my story and I blog. If ZWLA has a newsletter I’m very much willing to write an article about my story for publication”.


The know your rights section is designed to help you have a basic understanding of how to apply for maintenance, a protection order or what to do when your husband dies and you need to register the estate. Read and be informed.


Know your inheritance laws in Zimbabwe
  • First you need to know where to register the estate? 
  • If the deceased was married under the Marriages Act Chapter 5:11, the estate has to be registered at the High Court 
  • If the deceased was married under the Customary Marriages Act Chapter 5:07, or was in unregistered customary law union, the estate has to be registered at the Magistrates Court


How to register the deceased estate at Magistrate Court
Step by step process
  • Be in possession of a death certificate
  • Go to the deceased estate office at the Magistrates court to register the estate
  • Fill in the required forms and list all the property of the deceased
  • You will be informed of the date to attend a meeting before the magistrate to choose an executor 
  • An executor is the person who is responsible for administering the estate and preparing a distribution list


Who can benefit from the estate?
  • Surviving spouse(s) and children
  • If there are no surviving spouse and children, the deceased’s parents, brothers and sisters will be the beneficiaries


Administration of an estate under general law
To whom does general law apply?


  • Non Africans
  • To people married under the marriages Act Chapter 5:11
  • To people who are married under customary law but their way of living indicated a western lifestyle
  • The Deceased Estates Succession Act is the applicable law to the administration of estates under general law 


How is the property shared under general law?


  • The surviving spouse inherits the matrimonial home and all household goods
  • The remaining property is divided between the children and the surviving spouse
  • If there are no children or surviving spouse, parents, brothers and sisters of the deceased will be the beneficiaries


Administration of an estate under customary law
Which law applies?
Administration of Estates Amendment Act number 6 of 1997
To whom does the customary law apply?


  • To people married under the Customary Marriages Act Chapter 5:07 
  • To people staying together as husband and wife but without a registered marriage


N.B this law applies to estates of people who died after 1997. For those who died before 1994, the estate is administered the customary way and the eldest son inherits everything.


How is the estate distributed under Administration of Estates Act of 1997?


  • If the deceased had one spouse, that spouse inherits the matrimonial home and all the household goods in it
  • In addition to the house, the spouse is entitled to half of the remaining property
  • The other half is shared among the children of the deceased


What if there is more than one surviving spouses?


  • If a man dies and leaves more than one wife, each wife is entitled to the matrimonial home that they stayed in before the death of the husband and all the household goods in it
  • All the wives are entitled to a 1/3 of the estate
  • They have to share that 1/3 with the first wife getting a larger share 
  • Of the 1/3, the first wives get 2/3 of the state
  • The other wives have to share the remaining 1/3 
  • The other 2/3 of the estate is given to children of the deceased


What is maintenance? 
Who can apply for maintenance?
  • The mother on behalf or her children
  • A spouse on his or her 


Which court should you go to apply for maintenance?
  • Maintenance can be applied for at the Magistrates Court 
  • It can also be applied for at the High Court during the divorce process for those married under the marriages Act Chapter 5:11


How to claim maintenance at the Magistrates Court
  • Go to the magistrate court 
  • Collect the maintenance forms from the clerk of court
  • fill the maintenance forms 
  • Serve the forms to the person whom you are claiming maintenance from. 
  • Serve the maintenance summons through the police or messenger of court 
  • Attend the  court hearing


Important information to include in maintenance forms
  • amount claimed- be clear and specify the expenses you incur or likely to incur in future 
  • names and dates of birth of the children
  • income of the person whom you are claiming maintenance from


How is maintenance paid? 
  • It is deposited in a bank account
  • It can be deducted from the respondent’s salary


N.B a court application for a garnishee order has to be made before the Magistrate in order for the money to be deducted from the Respondent’s salary 


What if the person defaults paying maintenance


  • Report to the nearest police station because failure to comply with a court order to pay maintenance is a criminal offence 
  • You can also apply for a garnishee order. A garnishee order is a court order which allows for money to be deducted from respondent’s salary from his or her workplace
  • Maintenance Variation
  • If there are changed circumstances you can go back to the court and ask the court to increase the amount that you are getting every month.
  • The respondent can also apply for a court order to vary the maintenance downwards if he/she is no longer employed


Applying for protection order under the Domestic Violence Act
What is a protection order? 
This is a court order which forbids a person accused of committing domestic violence not to continue abusing the applicant
Who can apply for a protection order?
  • Victims of domestic violence
  • Any person with the consent of the victim can apply for a protection order
  • Any person can apply for a protection order on behalf of someone without consent if there is permission from the court
  • Anyone  who is looking after a person under the age of 18 can apply for maintenance on behalf of that person



What to do to get a protection order
  • Fill in the forms  with the assistance of the clerk of court
  • The application is placed before the magistrate within forty eight hours 
  • The court can grant an interim order that protects the victim while waiting for  the court date 
  • If granted the interim order is served to the perpetrator through the police 
  • A court hearing is conducted and both oral and written evidence is brought before the magistrate
  • Is satisfied that the protection is necessary, a protection order is granted


For how long is a protection order valid?
  • 5 years but you can go and make another application for a protection order  after that period if you are still facing abuse


What to do if the abuser does not comply with a court order
  • Failure to comply with the court order amounts to contempt of court 
  • Report to the nearest police station 


For the past 22 years, the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association has always noted with disturbing concern that there is violence and the abuse of the rights of women and children within the “sects” of the “Vapostori” church. Whilst the allegations would for the most years go unreported and have in most circumstances seemed hard to investigate from the position of an NGO, it is disturbing to note that indeed the allegations are true. The allegations of violence and abuse of women and children’s rights having been there for decades where confirmed by recent events which saw “more than six riot police officers, journalists and members of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) seriously injured after rowdy members of an apostolic sect attacked them with knobkerries and stones in Harare’s Budiriro suburb” as reported by The Herald of 3 June 2014.